Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a drought emergency and asked all residents to immediately cut their water use by 20%.
“This is a crisis, just as severe as an earthquake or raging wildfire, and we must treat it with the same urgency,” he said.
The season’s rain totals are at 87 percent of average, but the snowpack in the Sierra Mountains is at 78 percent of normal. The state and federal operated reservoirs are at their lowest levels since 1992.
California grows most of the vegetables, fruit and nuts for the United States. It is estimated that agriculture losses this year could be as high as $2.8 billion and as many as 95,000 farming jobs could be lost.
The drought has already forced some farmers to stop planting some crops. There is no word yet on whether the US Bureau of Reclamation would implement a plan to stop all deliveries of surface water for a two-week period that was scheduled to begin March 1.
“Water is our life — it’s our jobs and it’s our food,” said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the farm bureau in Fresno County, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. “Without a reliable water supply, Fresno County’s number one employer, agriculture, is at great risk.”
California’s agricultural industry usually gets 80 percent of all the water supplies managed by the federal government, coming from mountains streams and suburban reservoirs. The state delivers water to more than 25 million Californians and more than 750,000 acres of farmland.